In a turnabout from 2012, the Spring Grove City Council voted to allow Police Chief Paul Folz to hire a full-time replacement officer.

Almost exactly one year ago on (April 17, 2012), the council voted to replace a full-time position with a part-time (.5 FTE) officer after the resignation of full-time officer Linda Coffield. Folz has worked alone since her departure in November of 2011.

Despite numerous attempts, the position was still not filled when the council met last week. That's when Folz reported that he had two finalists for the position of a part-time officer.

"My request tonight is for the council to approve (either) one of two requests," he said. "The first request is to allow me to make a conditional offer to one of the applicants for a full-time position to restore us back to where we were back when officer Coffield retired.

"If the council is not willing to approve that, then my next request is to offer a conditional appointment to the police department for two part-time officers."

Councilmembers Nancy Nelson and Lorilyn Dehning reported that they had "done some budget crunching" earlier in the day and concluded that sufficient funds exist to approve either of Folz's suggestions.

Nelson said that monies set aside for outside legal counsel was one possible source.

"One half-time (officer) has already been approved by the previous council," Nelson said, "so I don't think that's an issue. The only decision is, can we add another half-time, or should we convert that half-time, that was approved last year, into a full time?"

"Since we agreed to do one part-time, shouldn't that be tried first before you add more," councilmember Rachel Olerud asked.

Mayor Bruce Poole asked Folz if the part-time applicants were willing to commit to the department.

"They're willing to commit here for 20 hours a week," he confirmed, "but understand, we're not offering any benefits, and they're probably not going to stay."

Nelson disagreed with former Mayor Saundra Solum (who was in the audience) on the need for no more than one half-time appointee. "Trust me, we need coverage," Nelson concluded.

"I think we should stay with the plan for one half time," Poole said, "and see how it goes."

"I'd like to try two part-timers, while you're training one you may as well train two," Dehning said.

"I don't think they'll stick around long, so at least you'll still have one or the other.

"The difference between part time and a full time is basically health insurance. I think we can cover it."

Councilman Robert Vogel asked Folz for his recommendation. He replied that a full-time hire would be the best course of action.

"I seem to remember voting for that last time, coming upon the short end," Vogel noted. He then moved for a single full-time hire. Nelson seconded. Dehning voted for the motion as well, resulting in a 3-2 decision.

Folz said that he expected that even though the job posting was for a part-time position, a conditional offer for a full-time job will be accepted. The council will need to set the wage, he added.

Folz then said that it would be handy to have a second person available in case an officer would be off for an extended period of time on account of illness or unforeseen circumstances.

"The second part of my recommendation is to allow a second officer to be 'carried on paper' as a member of the police department." he said.

The person would be paid nothing just to be carried on the roster, he told Solum.

"It makes sense," Vogel stated. Dehning agreed.

Folz said that so far, only the background checks have been done on the candidates. Medical and psychological exams would be performed when a conditional offer is made.

Dehning then moved to carry an extra officer on the department's roster.

"If a person is hurt or off for a long period of time, or one officer were to quit, we would have another person we could pull in right away," she said.

Nelson agreed that something like an extended sick leave might qualify to activate a third officer. "This person would not be working unless there's an emergency," she stated.

"You need to look at what you're getting yourself into here," Solum warned. "You need to stop and think about it."

An identical 3-2 vote passed the second motion.

Another position approved

Nelson cast the lone "no" vote on a motion to approve an advertisement for a part-time administrative assistant to work at City Hall.

The position would be for 10-14 hours per week on an as-needed basis. Pay is listed as "depending on experience," and the job will be offered on a trial basis for the first three months.